March 13, 2013
The Willamette River drains some 11,500 square miles of a remarkably fertile and beautiful area of northwest Oregon. It empties into the mighty Columbia River at Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, and almost two dozen dams constructed for flood control, hydroelectric generation, and irrigation straddle its tributaries. Thirteen of these dams are owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, and most were built in the 1940s and ‘50s. But unlike the eight Corps hydroelectric dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers, which have highly effective provisions to allow fish to swim past them safely, the Willamette basin’s dams were generally built without any facilities for salmon and steelhead to pass either upstream or down.